October 26th, 2020

Training Matters: What exactly is mental toughness?

By Brittney Nyrose on August 21, 2020.

Mental toughness is a widely used term in the sport community. “Oh that athlete is mentally tough,” or “he/she lost because they weren’t mentally tough” are some common phrases we hear in sport. But what exactly is mental toughness?

Some people mistakenly believe that mental toughness is not showing any emotion. Being tough, strong, rugged. Always having your game face on and showing no emotions. Maybe even having no mercy for your opponents. Others believe it is a masculine trait and that males are more mentally tough than females. However, none of this is true and research has shown that mental toughness applies equally to both males and females.

Mental toughness is the ability to remain positive and proactive in the most challenging situations. Basically, how people effectively deal with stress and obstacles that come their way. It enables you to thrive even in the most difficult circumstances. The true test of your mental toughness comes on your bad days. Sure, everyone can handle it when everything is going great and you are having your best performance. But it’s when you are trying to get the job done and things aren’t going your way that your mental toughness is put to the test.

The opposite of mental toughness is not mental weakness. People who are not mentally tough have a difficult time overcoming the obstacles and challenges they face. They can perform great when things are going well, but they crumble under pressure. This is not to say that they are mentally weak, they just haven’t trained their brains to overcome these challenges. But what’s great about mental toughness is that it can be learned and developed. It’s not something you are either born with or you aren’t. We can learn to build our mental ability to thrive under pressure and persevere even on your worst days.

So why is mental toughness so important? Researchers have found that mental toughness can actually account for the difference between winning and losing. One’s ability to bounce back from a devastating defeat, fight off the urge to quit when things aren’t going well, persevere when your confidence is blown and thrive under pressure are all great qualities we wish to have. If you look at the athletes with the most wins, they will all exhibit these qualities. They will always be mentally tough no matter what is thrown their way. With the ever increasing busyness, stress and uncertainty in life, we all need to be mentally tough now more than ever. Mentally tough people are also less likely to experience mental health challenges. If we are able to remain positive through all the stress and struggles life throws at us, we will definitely fare better mentally.

There are four main blocks to building metal toughness. The first is confidence. If you are confident in your abilities, you will feel better equipped to face new challenges. Confidence comes easy to some, whereas others have a harder time feeling confident. It takes a lot of practice to where you feel prepared and assured in your ability, but keep putting in the hard work and you’ll get there. The second block is concentration. Concentration comes when you are focused and dialed in on the job or task and you can fight off distractions. Composure is the third building block of mental toughness. Staying composed under pressure and managing emotions such as anxiety, frustration and disappointment allow you to be mentally tough. Lastly, you need a strong commitment. Mental toughness allows you to overcome challenging situations, but you cannot do this without being fully committed to whatever it is you want to achieve.

If you are interested in learning more on how you can build your mental toughness, feel free to contact me.

Brittney Nyrose is a mental performance coach and the mental skills coach for the Alberta Sport Development Centre – Southeast. She can be contacted at bnyrose.mpc@gmail.com.

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